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Marinerds to take robotics to the stage

By Staff | Jan 6, 2016

The Mariner High Robotics club also known as the “Mari-nerds” will its robotic skills to the stage, in the form of a robotic kayak.

Theatre Conspiracy will present the play “KAYAK” by Canadian Jordan Hall beginning Thursday, Jan. 7, at the Foulds Theatre at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts in Fort Myers.

For this production, Theatre Conspiracy has enlisted the assistance of the Mariner High School’s Robotics Club to create a “robotic Kayak” that can be remotely controlled to travel around the stage.

Bill Taylor, producing artistic director at Theatre Conspiracy, said when he decided to do the show, he wanted something more than a kayak that was stationery on blocks.

“I thought it would be cool when she paddled the kayak, it would actually move around the stage,” Taylor said. “I had no idea how to do that.”

Taylor decided to get a robotics club involved, which would have the knowledge to make it happen. After searching the Web, he found the Marinerds. He contacted them and asked if they would be interested and agreed to come on board.

Two members of the club, Robert Herring and Josh Wiggins, spent six weeks converting a used motorized wheelchair into a kayak with remote control capability as well as extra battery life so the “robokayak” can last for the entire 75-minute show.

“We’ve been using it for rehearsals. There’s still some fine tuning that has to be done, but they came up with a brilliant idea of how it would work,” Taylor said.

The “Marinerds” is a club designed to provide students an opportunity to showcase their potential and grow their inner self.

During the year the members participate in FTC (First Tech Challenge) competitions but also participate in TSA (Technology Student Association), and Vex Robotics. Many of the students also participate in band, sports, and volunteer work.

“KAYAK” is a story about a suburban mother who sets out to save her son from the dangers of his radical environmentalist girlfriend and recounts the strange chain of events that left her stranded in her son’s old kayak as she unwittingly throws herself into the path of events larger than she ever could have imagined.

This show stars Lauren Drexler, Juan Alejandro and Alex Holmes. Stephen Hooper is directing.

Performances of “KAYAK” will be on Jan. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, at 8 p.m., with one matinee on Sunday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $24 or $11 for women under 41 years of age and students with proper ID. Opening night is “pay what you will,” with 50 percent of all ticket sales going to benefit Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, and Thursdays are “buy one get one half off.” Tickets may be purchased online at www.theatreconspiracy.org or by calling 936-3239.